HOPEFULLY, I will update this site periodically, and put some interesting information about music or composers that we are studying, or something about current events in music that might relate to us, or who knows what! If you have ideas for me, let me know, or if you want to write a page, that's even better!!
Major scales are based on a particular formula of whole steps and half steps.
The first note of the scale is called the root of the scale and the major scale formula is: start on the root, move up a whole step, another whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step (which takes you to the root one octave higher). But you don't necessarily need to know that in order to play the scales; the formula just explains how we get to the key signatures.
To figure out how to play a major scale in a certain key, all you really need is the following information:
1) All scales begin and end on the name of the key (the root). For example: the C scale begins on C, goes alphabetically up to the next C and back down. (C is the root of the scale)
2) Key signature: The key of C has no sharps (#) and no flats (b). For all other scales you, must add the correct sharps or flats. (Major scales never have both sharps and flats in the key signature.)
Looking at the chart below, we can see that:
Concert Pitch & Transposition
Often you will hear a conductor speak of the "concert pitch" or request that the group play a concert F scale. Click here for info on transposing from concert pitch - all band members should know how to do this...
Click here if you would like to see the Bb concert scale transposed & written for Bb, Eb, F, or bass clef instruments.
Natural Minor Scales
Once you know how to do major scales, minor scales are easy! -- except for the fact that there are three different forms. Let's start with the basic form, the natural minor scale.
We know that the C major scale looks like this:
All major scales have a relative minor. The major and minor scales are related because they share the same key signature. To find the minor scale that has the same key signature as a particular major scale, count up to the 6th scale step (in C major: C, D, E, F, G, A). Now, use the same key signature, but start on the A instead of the C. So, the a natural minor scale (which is related to the C major) looks like this:
SIMPLE?!? Yep! So...
The whole step / half step formula for a natural minor
scale is: R, W, H, W, W, H, W, W
Here is the g natural minor scale. Click on the play bar below to hear the scale in concert pitch.
Click here if you would like to see the concert g natural minor scale transposed & written for Bb, Eb, F, or bass clef instruments.
Harmonic Minor Scales
Now, about the other two minor forms... Aside from the natural minor scale, there are also harmonic minor scales and melodic minor scales.
The harmonic minor takes the natural minor and simply raises the 7th scale step:
A B C D E F G# A -- A G# F E D C B A
IMPORTANT!!!!! This DOES NOT change the key signature! The key signature is not G#; we still say no sharps, no flats. As soon as you say harmonic minor, everyone knows you are adding that sharp. (See key signature chart)
The whole step / half step formula for a natural minor scale is: R, W, H, W, W, H, 1 1/2, H
Here is a g harmonic minor scale. Click on the
play bar to hear a g harmonic minor scale.
Melodic Minor Scales
Melodic minor is more complex. You raise the 6th & 7th scale steps on the way up and cancel them on the way down (just play a natural minor scale on the way down).
A B C D E F# G# A -- A G F E D C B A -- weird, eh?
Again, the key signature is still no sharps, no flats.
By the way: If you have to raise a flat, it becomes a natural (Bb becomes a B natural). If you have to raise a sharp, it becomes a double sharp [A WHAT!??!] (F# becomes Fx which is an F raised twice or a G!)
The whole step / half step formula for a natural minor
scale going up is: R, W, H, W, W, W, W, H
Here is the g melodic minor scale. Click on the
play bar to hear the g melodic minor scale.
Click here if you would like to see the concert g melodic minor scale transposed & written for Bb, Eb, F, or bass clef instruments.
The Chromatic Scale
We are going to use the piano keyboard diagram to help us understand and learn the chromatic scale. First, let's briefly get a sense of how the piano keyboard is laid out. Notice:
And how would we ever find our way around?????
Sooo... What does all this have to do with the Chromatic Scale???
A chromatic scale is a scale containing 12 equal divisions of the octave. Put another way, it is every key on the piano within one octave. (An octave is from C to C, or F# to F#, or A to A, or...) So a chromatic scale starting on C is:
C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C
(then come down & use the flat names)
Put your finger on the piano keys below and say the names of the notes in a C chromatic scale.
Here is a C chromatic scale, one octave. Click the play bar to hear a C chromatic scale, one octave.
Now, take that information to your instrument...
Look at the piano keyboard while you play each note of the chromatic scale on your instrument. There may be a few notes that you need to look up, but notice most of them you already know - What is an A# you ask?? Why, it is a Bb and you probably do know that fingering! (Click here for a larger sized keyboard that you can print out to work with and to keep in your band folder for reference)
Play up and down a few times. Keep looking at the keyboard so your eyes learn to visualize the keyboard and so your brain learns the note names -- it will help you memorize faster.
OK, so you know what a chromatic scale is; now the hard part is memorizing it on your instrument. If you had a long poem to memorize, would you recite it all the way through over and over again? Of course not; you would break it into small chunks and memorize one verse at a time.
Do the same with the chromatic scale. It is easy to
memorize a few notes, so do from C to F.
Now learn from F to A. Then from A to C. Now you are ready to put it together!
Want the BAD NEWS? Great, you can play it from memory today. But guess what? When you pick up your instrument tomorrow, you will probably have forgotten it. Sigh... But the GOOD NEWS is that it won't take you as long to relearn it!
Here is a link to a web site that shows how the chromatic scale and other scales work on a guitar, banjo or ukulele fret board: http://www.ezfolk.com/guitar/Tutorials/Music_Theory/Chromatic_Scale/chromatic_scale.html